Are you ready? It's time for our 14th annual photo contest! Enter your best pictures of the year, for a chance to win a calendar and annual subscription here. Hurry! Deadline for entries is October 21.
manure is not required. A mix of kitchen scraps, grass clippings, and brown leaves is a nice start. I'd shoot for at least half the moist stuff (grass and scraps). That is on the small size for a pile. It will decay if kept moist/ damp, and will help if the dry leaves are chopped or shredded, and/ or wetted down before adding. Newspaper is allowed but not especialy helpful, unless you have a lot of kitchen and grass, making the pile stay too moist and gushy.
I have plenty of space, I thought if I am successful at all with this and want to go larger, I can have my husband build a larger bin . I have never done composting before and none of my nieghbors do composting , in fact this will only be my second year at gardening so I am a newbie to all of this . but this site has been so great for information and its members are so nice and helpful it incourages me to try it for myself . I think I'll leave the newspaper out of the pile ,I am getting ready to walk through 5 inches of snow to my bin and put my first load in it . oh man wouldn't you know the only drift in the yard is where the bin is.
I built my first compost pile last year and learned a few lessons. Do read the "Composting 101". Size matters. I couldn't get mine to heat up until I had a pile measuring 4'x4'x4'. For my pile, I had a lot of straw and sawdust, very slow carbon,or brown material. Also, I had to add a lot more nitrogen, or green, such as kitchen veggie scraps, banana peels, coffee grounds, etc. I also chose to add more blood meal. Another lesson was to keep it covered to keep critters out and the 'scent' in, so I covered it with weed block and straw. After the heat peaked at 138 degrees F, I turned and watered total of six times, before using it in Oct. The pile was about a third of what I had started with. Manure is not required, but I chose to add. Bagged decomposed manure can be found at any landscaping or home improvement store. Good luck. It's really amazing how nature works.
Hummingtammy, twigs may may take a while, but that's okay, what doesn't get decomposed can go into the next pile. Long twigs, sticks do get in the way. I built my on ground pile on top of sticks for what I thought would be good for aeration, and all they did was make it a lot more cumbersome and messy to turn. I found alfalfa pellets an inexpensive way to add nitrogen if you don't have enough kitchen fruit & veggie scraps.
Another tip is to get the ingredients to the smallest size that is reasonably possible. For example, I chopped up my banana peels rather than throwing them in whole. I don't own any kind of tool that could efficiently chop straw, so I fluffed out into thin flakes as I built the pile. Wet, brown packaging cardboard, I shreaded into hand size pieces, and in the end it was totally gone.
rfonte- I falied to think thru that. Of course Bokashi can 'play' very well with the traditional pile! I'm glad you point that out. It sounds like the 'tammy' has all kitchen this time of year at least. Me too for that matter. I could probably benefit from a B bucket in the basement rather than the frozen scraps on the pile every couple days.
Then again, those frozen and thawed scraps will rot quickly as soon as the weather warms up. It's all good.
Tammy, it takes as long as it takes. . . which is not a particularly helpful answer! A larger "hot pile or barrel composter can create usable compost in a few weeks or months, while a smaller/cooler pile can take several months. If you pay attention to turning and hydrating your pile, as well as creating a good balance of browns and greens, the process goes quicker.
How's that for a non-answer!
For my own style of composting, I find patience to be a virtue. And a necessity.
Some of us less patient will sift our months old compost through something very sturdy and coarse- I use a bread rack found discarded behind a closed store- and sift out some 'finished' compost from the coarser unfinished twig, leaves, orange rinds etc.
so composting is a case where patience is not just a virtue but a way of life for composters. I dont mind the wait I dont know why but saving my scraps for the pile makes me feel like I am not being so wastefull .
I chop my scraps, usually with a paring knife, and then I freeze them for about 24 hours. Then they really break down faster. But I am retired and have been composting for years so I can wait for my different piles to do their thing.
Tammy, I think that we all feel an amazing sense of satisfaction when we save our scraps, so welcome to the obsession! It's also very rewarding to think that we can give back to Mother Nature some of that which we take in the form of food crops.
Sharon's process of chopping scraps into little pieces and then freezing them will speed up the process considerably. I try to remember to chop--and this time of year in New England, the freezing is not a problem!
My motivation to compost is more self-serving than anything else, to be totally blunt with y'all: I'm cheap.
Composting my kitchen scraps, junk mail, grass clippings, leaves, yard waste, fireplace ash, and such costs me nothing, and it adds valuable organic matter to my crappy clay soil. That means happier, healthier plants & a nicer landscape than my neighbors. When it's time to sell: cha-ching! Until then I get to enjoy beauty around my home (and tastier fruits & veggies).
Tammy, how long it takes depends on warmth, air, water, and the right green/brown (nitrogen/carbon) ratio. The bacteria that do the microscopic breakdown need temps above 55 degrees F. However, experienced composters who insulate their piles can compost through cold weather. I'm not that motivated so I'm okay with my pile warming up in the spring. Last fall it got up to 135 degrees then cooled off. I can't wait to give it a good stir this spring and see what happens!
Sharon, thanks for your suggestion, I've got huge freezer, so freezing my kitchen scraps would solve my storage problem!
such great advice I wish something around here would start to heat I am tired of ice , I am going to put my scraps in the freezer it is almost to dangerously slick to try and get to the pile right now. did I understam right , you can use wood ash in your pile?
Two fine qualities in many cases!
We in the rainy East Coast have acid soil and the salts and alkali in wood ash are diluted faster than some other areas. Since I only have an inefficient fireplace and not much ash I have not researched for any limits on what to add. But out of curiousity about it 'burning' with salts, I made a strong slurry of ash last year , slopped it here and there, and didn't see any immediate problems. My weedy lawn grew right through it.
[quote="WormsLovSharon"]I chop my scraps, usually with a paring knife, and then I freeze them for about 24 hours. Then they really break down faster. [/quote]
Sharon, I've never heard of freeze kitchen scraps prior to adding them to the compost pile. What does freezing do that makes the decomposition of the material faster? That seems counterintuitive to me.
It breaks down the cells so the worms can digest them easier, I think. Docpipe, are you any where around? Mraider, where are you. These two know everything or at least I think they do. Sharon. I will search old posts on composting and vericomposting.
So is breaking through cell membrane and break down of the cells the same thing?? LOL... Thank you PuddlePirate.
I deep soaked some bulbs I had dug yesterday and took them out of the thrive and fish emulsion water today. I found worms in the roots. I put them on top of a container of potting mix that I had planted some very very small plants with roots. I placed about three, feeling very bad that I had drowned the worms. When I found the next worm I went to place it on top of the soil and the rest were gone. I watched and this little water soaked worm laid there for a moment and then started moving and slowly disappeared into the soil. Made my day.
Why do I love worms so much????
Have a great day tomorrow. We are getting rain. I will be in the garage with the garage door closed cleaning more bulbs. Sharon.
[quote] However, experienced composters who insulate their piles can compost through cold weather. I'm not that motivated so I'm okay with my pile warming up in the spring. Last fall it got up to 135 degrees then cooled off. I can't wait to give it a good stir this spring and see what happens![/quote]
Tammy, sarah wrote the above quote, and I'm pretty much in agreement with her about motivation--or my lack of it ;-) -- during the New England winter! However, this last fall I read Angela's (Bookerc1) great article on Winter Composting, and she inspired me to put a dark-colored tarp over my compost pile and then pile on top the several black plastic bags of leaves I'd collected from Fall clean-up. Just this simple effort seems to have kept my pile from freezing up completely, like it used to. Not that I'm out there tossing, but I do know that maybe some microbial activity will start up again, more quickly.
Her article is really helpful; if you want to see the part about insulating the pile, read about half-way down, and look next to the photo of the compost-thermometer. There's also some great info about using straw bales to insulate.
Sarahn, thanks so much for taking a moment to comment on the article! Someone mentioned to me that there was a discussion underway over here, so I decided to stop by and see.
My pile did eventually cool down considerably when our windchill temps hit about 15 below, but it still hasn't frozen all the way through, as it has in past years. I give it really minimal attention in the winter months, mostly only opening it to add kitchen scraps when my countertop bins are full to capacity, but I've been pleased to see that it is still not a solid mass. It was definitely worth the minimal effort it took to surround it with straw bales and cover it with a tarp and bagged leaves. My kids find it inconvenient to open the hinged lid on top while it is insulated, but they aren't terribly keen about emptying the compost buckets in ideal situations. LOL
I haven't read up about wood ash. We don't have a fire place or woodburning stove, but I'm curious what impact the ashes would have.
I have a pile of leaves dead grass and what was left over in the garden all in a pile at the corner of our property . it has been uncovered all winter, but now that we have unfrozen here for the moment , I was wondering can I put that in with my compost pile in my bin ,it doesn't look like much is going on in the bin yet so I wonder if that might help get things going or will it not be a good idea.
Tammy, that sounds like exactly what you SHOULD put in your compost! If you have some kitchen scraps to put in, too, that might help things get going, too. I don't know what zone you are in, but Indiana is probably pretty on pace with Illinois, and it will be a while before it warms up enough to really get the compost active here.
Hello again I have another question , I work in a school and the cafeteria ladies has said they would save kitchen scraps for me ,we are talking a lot of scraps here. my question , can you have to much kitchen waste and would this be bad for my compost pile also one of the ladies was telling me you dont want to put bread or oranges in your pile is this true?
Bread and oranges are fine.
You will find that as the pile gets fresher and juicer you have lots of fungus gnats/ fruit flies, possibly larger fly larvae- these are not bad, per se, but may be unpleasant for you.
This may or may not apply to you depending upon where you live, but another thing you might want to be mindful of with food scraps is that you'll want to make sure you don't have so many scraps that you can't bury them in the rest of your pile. I find that burying them in the center of the pile helps in not attracting attention from four-legged friends.
Maybe the schools could make money by sending them to us for postage plus $10. LOL. The pig farmers get all the scraps from around here.
Our CC&R's from our HOA say no compost piles. Just because of 4 legged roof rats. I have one, I do not think anyone in here would recognize one anyway. But as I said before, I mostly spot compost and the worms just find where I bury the food. I am always concerned when I dig in an area and find no worms.
Hummingtammy, that is great that the school is willing to save the kitchen scraps for you! They must have a lot of scraps, especially if they work with fresh fruits and veggies at all! I wouldn't be concerned about oranges or bread (I've composted both), but you do want to avoid any dairy or meat products.
If you can, try to include plenty of "brown" (high carbon) ingredients, too, like leaves and straw, to balance all the "greens" (high nitrogen) you'll be collecting from the school. You can even use shredded paper, newspaper, or cardboard (I've found it is much easier to wet it, then tear it up in pieces). It won't add much nutritionally to your pile, but it *will* keep it from getting too soggy and sour smelling from an overbalance of kitchen scraps. I collect bags and bags of leaves in the fall, and then add them in layers along with kitchen and garden scraps. It drives DH nuts to have all the bagged leaves in our shed, but I use them in the compost, as an underlayer beneath my wood mulch in my flower beds, and even as mulch between rows of veggies. I have never yet had a year where I had leftover leaves by the following fall, no matter how many bags I collect!
Sharon , I have never heard of a roof rat , is it a real rat? but I learned a lesson on leaving the lid cracked on my bin. I went out to put more in and found a racoon in it , he was not happy to see me . Our school like most in the country has money issues , I thought about mentioning composting to them, we are a country school system with three schools on one campus .they have plenty of scraps and lots of grass and leaves, they could get 4 h or the FFA kids envolved . they could sell the finished compost and put the money back in the school . so far no one seems interested so I take what I can and just use it myself. Just seems a shame to see it all go in the trash. does it hurt to put soil in your pile I am exspanding my garden and the grass has sod on it to.
Nope, it is good to put some soil in your compost. I add a shovelful every now and then, because the soil has the microbes that break things down. Great way to get your pile going!
I tried to encourage our school to compost (we do have a beautiful butterfly garden), but couldn't get them interested in doing more than passing out a little ag newspaper about home composting. Oh, well. It's a start.
Well roof rats that are hear are suppose to have come over from Arizona in transplanted palms. They are also called roof rats in Arizona. We have very little squirrels in our area.
I will have to research that. Tomorrow we are suppose to be 70 degrees. I am ready.
My holding bed, which is also a large area I dump scraps into a large hole and cover is totally turned over due to an invasion of roots from a neighbors tree on the other side of the wall.
Here is a photo I took of one area that is still not completed of my holding bed. Will be completed tomorrow.
Sharon Wow what a difference in your soil. composting realy made a big difference . I am glad you took the pictures it encourages me to keep up with the composting . we have squirrels here but no roof rats. Bookerc1 , Good going on getting the home composting paper sent home from school. I decided to try composting because of a paper that was sent home with my son in Ag. You never know how many folks might have started composting because of your effforts.